Dissolving the shock of the new

Communicate the opportunities projects offer

Communicate the opportunities projects offer

Managing change is a major issue for IT departments. Research by user group the Corporate IT Forum showed it to be one of the biggest challenges for its members over the next 12 months.

Unless change management processes are improved we will continue to see IT projects failing and millions of pounds of investment being wasted.

The purpose of change management is to significantly increase the likelihood of success and delivery of business benefit.

It is about documenting how the project will change business processes, and then planning how to manage these changes to ensure that the organisation reaps the expected benefits long after the project has gone live. But the problem is that many IT managers and directors do not have the skills or experience to manage and communicate the changes that technology projects create.

One of the biggest issues that seem to take project managers by surprise is that people resist change. Often employees undermine the success of a technology project because they feel threatened, fearing that job losses may soon follow. Therefore it is important that businesses communicate the changes and benefits technology implementations create for the individual as well as the company.

For example, if you plan to automate a particular business process, then the staff who are involved in that process need to be shown how this creates new opportunities for them, rather than being left to wonder whether they are close to being made redundant.

In addition to targeted communication with employees, it is important to get senior-level buy-in. If an IT project is creating a great deal of change within an organisation, it must be seen to be sponsored by a senior individual in the organisation who champions the project internally. Far too often you see a managing director or a CEO sign off an IT project and then wash their hands of it, expecting others to deliver the benefits.

This simply is not good enough. IT projects cause things to change and the reasons must be communicated by those at the top. You would not find a CEO leaving it to a facilities manager to communicate an office relocation to staff, so why should IT staff be left with the responsibility of communicating the business changes technology creates?

If necessary, IT must get senior directors to see that technology is a catalyst for business change and that business change is best communicated and implemented by business people with the support of IT, rather than the IT department in isolation.

Finally, IT must work with business sponsors to ensure that everyone in the organisation understands the changes a particular IT project will create and define what people's individual responsibilities are to ensure the success of the project.

IT departments cannot make IT projects a success in isolation, others in the business must understand this and take responsibility for working with the change-related opportunities that new technology creates, if IT projects are to be truly successful.

Jim Campbell is a consultant with change management consultancy Partners for Change

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